Why I Hate Goodreads.com

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the importance of getting to know something before you hate on it. Obviously there are things you can hate without knowing them, like a serial killer. Or an animal abuser. Or a child pornographer. I think we can all agree that we don’t need to sit down to tea with people like this in order to dislike them. (Though as writers, we may find something in that teatime conversation that makes them into a well-rounded antagonist – again, something most of us probably don’t want to do.)

But I hate Goodreads.com.

There. I said it. I realize this is like saying “I don’t think Bradley Cooper is good-looking.” I realize that for a reader and an aspiring author, this is probably a Kiss of Death. So be it.

I’ve tried to get into it. I’ve tried to give it a chance. And to be fair, I did find my new favorite YA series, “Shades of London” by Maureen Johnson, there two weeks ago.

But there are so many things to hate about it. The layout. The font. (News flash:  the rest of the world uses sans-serif fonts for a reason.) The God-awful number of typos on the site (for a site about READING, the number of typos I can find on just one page of Goodreads’ own policies – not reviews, but content that they post, is ludicrous. Get. A. Proofreader. I cannot take a site seriously if it has that many typos.).

But most of it comes down to the PEOPLE on the site – the reviewers.

As far as I can tell, most of the people who leave reviews on Goodreads fall into the following categories:

  • People who spent most of middle school being shoved into lockers or trash cans. Or both.
  • People who turn to Goodreads to torment people because if they didn’t, they’d be well on their way to becoming serial killers.
  • People who SERIOUSLY need to go get lives. Who need to go volunteer in a soup kitchen or a humane society and see what life is really like outside four bedroom walls and the covers of a book.
  • People who are so pathetic that the only way they can feel good about themselves is to bring others down.

Goodreads’ own policies encourage this behavior. In their Review Guidelines, they come right out and say “Goodreads has some of the best book reviews anywhere. Our members are passionate, knowledgeable readers, and their contributions to the site are what make it such a vibrant and fun place.”

Another quote from their Review Guidelines: “Don’t be afraid to say what you think about the book! We welcome your passion, as it helps the millions of other readers on Goodreads learn what a book is really about, and decide whether or not they want to read it. We believe that Goodreads members should see the best, most relevant, thought provoking reviews (positive and negative) when they visit a book page. Our job is to show members those reviews, and not show reviews that we deem to not be appropriate or a high enough level of quality.”

In other words, we here at Goodreads are too lazy to figure out what’s trash and what isn’t, and intend to rely on the community to police themselves. Members *can* flag posts they feel are inappropriate and/or break the rules. But I’m willing to bet that none of these are ever removed.

News flash, reviewers:  A pathetic attempt to make yourself feel better by trashing someone else’s work – or worse, trashing someone else – is just that:  pathetic. It shows that you have zero maturity, zero self-control, and frankly, zero self-confidence. Your attempts to be clever are not clever in the slightest.

Those of us who truly love books and writing are out doing what we love to do, not wasting countless hours trying to convince everyone else that We Are Right and You Are Wrong by writing long, involved, and nasty reviews of books we may OR MAY NOT have read. We hold rational discussions. We recognize – because we’re writers, too – that the book you so zealously and callously demolish in your review is someone’s baby. As such, it deserves respect. That person got off their ass and wrote something, and finished it, and it was good enough to get published (unless it was self-published). That’s more than YOU have ever done, I’m sure of it.

(For clarification, here are links to Goodreads’ guidelines, as well as another page explaining in more detail what is and what might not be allowed. I still find these to be as fuzzy as a Persian cat wearing a mink stole.)



20 thoughts on “Why I Hate Goodreads.com

  1. I googled “I hate Goodreads” and came across your post, ha! Clearly I am in a cranky mood today. 🙂 But I loved Shelfari and Amazon is now eliminating it and merging users over to Goodreads. Do you have any other options for tracking what you read and finding new suggestions for titles since Goodreads is so not up to snuff?

    • I didn’t know that Shelfari was on the way out! That sucks. Unfortunately, Goodreads has sort of become the Amazon of book reviews. I really like BookPage – http://bookpage.com/ – as the reviews are all independent and it’s just a wonderful, intelligent site, with a lot of in-depth articles about the industry. Hope that helps! 🙂

    • That is exactly how I came here too (googling “I hate Goodreads”). I was such a huge fan of Shelfari and am so devastated that it’s not going to be around. It actually got me reading more. I transferred my stuff to Goodreads–which I hated and still hate–but it’s just not a site I will use. For one thing, they don’t have a section for you to put the books you own; the closest thing is “to-read,” which isn’t really accurate if I just want a category for reference or coffee books or something like that. Also, the layout is just plain stupid. The tags are separate shelves as opposed to user-sourced finding aids. And, yes, I hate the font too. And the colors. And everything about it. I hate Goodreads.

  2. I’ve never bothered with goodreads although I’m subscribed. It reminded me of a now defunct site … “Authonomy” where I once had my first novel up for review. The cat fights and negativity there was enough to turn anyone off reading forever!! As you say… these people need to get a life!! 😉

  3. There are no words to sum up how much I hate Goodreads. That site is a joke. I’m a self-published author and everyone has told me how much I need that site to become successful. Well, if using goodreads is the way to become well-know forget it. The reviewers, as you said, fall into several categories but when it comes down to it majority of them are pathetic, unhappy people. The few decent people are overshadowed by the childish morons who call themselves adults. Most have even admitted that they get a kick out of making someone laugh at their reviews. It’s one thing to say why you don’t like a book, but to leave a paragraph of jokes and things about the author is ridiculous. That’s not a review. That’s a very sick person who has no one to take their frustration out on. So glad I found your site.

  4. I thought I was the only person in the world who felt this way about Goodreads. I never had the time to really understand how it worked. And it did see like a place for mean people to leave scathing reviews of books. Seems like a waste of time. Why not just post the reviews on Amazon or wherever they buy the book? I did list a couple of books I’d read and reviewed them, but that took too much time away from my writing, so I didn’t keep up with it. My publisher (or someone) listed one of my books, and it got a decent review, but I gave up trying to figure out the site.

  5. I hate Goodreads as well. It seems that 95% of the “reviewers” are self-absorbed, pretentious, self-proclaimed “book lovers” that enjoy nothing other than clichéd YA fiction. Just look through the official “Best Books Ever” list: #1 is The Hunger Games, #2 is the fourth Harry Potter book, #5 is Twilight, and #12 is The Fault in Our Stars. All have near perfect ratings. These books come nowhere close to the best books in history, and will be promptly forgotten in fifty years’ time. Yet the reviewers rave about them ardently.

    Then look at the reviews of some of the best books written in history. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a rating of 3.94, because “the scenes were confusing.” Joyce’s Ulysses has 3.73, because “it’s too long.” Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying has 3.72, because “I don’t get the writing style.” Melville’s Moby Dick has 3.45, because “he uses too many difficult words.”

    The so-called “reviewers,” who are clearly not up to the task of reading a serious work of literature, spam these books with 1-star reviews—books that have stood the test of time are deemed some of the greatest works of literature in the world. Rather than appreciate symbolism or writing style or commentary, they would rather read an empty fantasy or dystopian teen novel, with its exciting plot and likable characters and predictable happy endings. Maybe they should stick to The Hunger Games instead.

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  7. I found your article the same way others have done–by Googling “I hate Goodreads”. I’m an author, both traditionally and self-published, in several genres and under several pen names. Goodreads started out well, then the wars began with reviewers mob-trashing a bunch of books, apparently for the fun of it. That’s when the horrible reviews began showing up–and my books, which average 4 to 4.5 stars on Amazon, B&N and iBooks, began showing a rash of 1 and 2 star ratings and reviews.

    The one that did me in was a 1 star rating from someone I know, someone from a writers’ group I once belonged to. I was staggered. Why would a writing “friend” read a book in a genre he does not even like and then take the time to leave a 1 star rating? I looked through his reviews and noted he had done the same to everyone in the group whose books had been published. (He is as yet unpublished.) Then I saw that he gave a number of classic books such as “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” 2 stars each.

    To me he personified what I had seen happening all over Goodreads, and that was the final straw. I stopped going there — or rather I go about once a year and don’t stick around too long. I wish I could delete all my (38) books from there, although I would lose in the process so many lovely and insightful reviews from the period before the madness started.

    Did I mention that I hate Goodreads?

    • That’s where I got started on that post, too! A friend published her first novel and the bashing started IMMEDIATELY. For no reason, because it was still in ARCs at the time and those ‘reviewing’ it hadn’t even read it – how can you review a book that’s not even published yet?! We knew where the ARCs were and none of those reviewers had one. So sorry you went through that. I think we need an alternative – a carefully moderated site, more like Kirkus or Bookpages, that’s more for true writers and readers.

      • Yes, a properly moderated site would be lovely. In the meantime I’m staying as far away from GR as I possibly can. Ugh.

  8. Omg you’re post saved me. Everything I’m reading here just happened to me. I launched my book March 3, 2019 and got a 2-star review the very same day. Then today another 2-star showed up. I was SO devastated. I poured my heart and soul into my book. How can people do this to others? They obviously don’t care how much writers go through. I was almost giving up until I saw your post. I’m grateful for you turning my day around. I hope everyone in my position finds you as well. Words don’t say enough as to how grateful I truly am.

    • I’m so sorry that happened! It really sucks when you get awful reviews when no one could have read your book in that amount of time. Keep writing, though – we all learn from that first novel. 🙂

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  10. Everything about Goodreads is backwards for both readers and authors. For authors, it’s a mess with no control of one’s own content. Problematically, books published under an author’s pseudonym, internet username or maiden name first must remain the primary name on a book’s visible record, even if the author decides to predominantly publish the book under a preferred new name or their real legal name. The disambiguation is appalling (as one person noted, VC Andrews, who died in the 1980’s, had a book about teaching on Google during COVID-19 linked to her profile as a book she had written, while Stephen King had a My Little Pony fanfiction listed as a book he’d written. Goodreads will never remove books once they have been reviewed, leading to book records sitting there dormant for any title that will never be published. If you try to correct any issues on your author account, you risk having your author account being permanently deleted. Goodreads is VERY behind-the-times in terms of record-keeping, and seems to fancy itself a public library catalogue with no corporate responsibility for authors as the primary way in which internet users now find books they want to read. It’s not even the potential for lost income that’s at issue, but rather an author’s moral rights and dignity.

    As for readers, the site is as equally a mess as it is for authors. So many angry people, readers will get shot down by writers for leaving any form of criticism, the shelves and lists are a mess, and the recommendations are whatever bestsellers are currently on the market. The site’s a waste; its initially benign goals of being a sort of virtual book club of sorts were completely lost when it decided to basically become a list-making app and ISBN catalogue for Amazon. I personally think the world could do without it completely, but that’s not my call to make. It does seem to make a lot of people happy. I can see it causing all kinds of legal problems in the future though with confusion over author names, title ownership, the display of certain cover images, reader harassment, trolling, book cancelling, Goodreads Giveaways, and many other areas of concern.

  11. Yes! Thank you so much for posting this. As a new indie author, I hate the site. Recently I had a book go viral and boy, did that unlock the floodgates. Until then, all my reviews were 4-5 stars, with a couple of very well written 3 stars about why the book wasn’t for them.
    Then it changed after the book hit the top 100 in amazon. Reviewers came in from people who sound like angry toddlers who missed their nap and were denied a cookie, and compare my book to a different genre that doesn’t even make sense––all while posting the review with a slew of spelling errors.
    Then there’re the posts that give you one star and say “I’m 20 pages in and hate it so I’m stopping” and then proceed to break down each character. How can you review something you stopped reading 20 pages in? Overall, the people on there are rude, snarky, and angry, and I have to pick through the garbage while not getting my spirit crushed. Each review makes me feel bad, until I go to their profile (which is always private) and discover that they’ve read thousands of books and only average 2 star reviews. That tells me they hate everything. So why do they allow non-reading trolls who hate books to go on there?
    The whole time, Goodreads highly discourages authors from reaching out, and spurs on the anger of the readers. It’s outrageous. In a world where creativity and kindness is dying, an actual safe site that promotes books is so needed. Forget goodreads.

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